Donna Spencer: Had/Has a Vision

In 1982, when this photo was taken, my vision for the Firehall was to create a cultural venue that would not only work in partnership with the resident companies at that time but, also, would be a producer and presenter of theatre , dance, and multi-disciplinary works reflecting the diversity of Canadians. And Firehall staff and board have worked continually to realize that vision starting in 1985-86 as one of only two professional theatre companies in Canada actively working towards inclusivity on stage.

But here and now in 2020, the theatre is closed and only the “ghost light” lights the stage at night and I contemplate what the new reality will be when we are safe to assemble in public once again. Will our audiences have gotten so used to being encouraged to watch all of their entertainment on screen return to live performances? Will they have any money in their budget to go out and enjoy a play or a dance performance? And what is it that we do or can do to bring them back to our wonderful intimate little venue for a performance?

And I return to the original vision of so many years ago and recognise what really was being envisaged was a place where people could gather to share in the witnessing and enjoyment of good stories and good storytelling through live performances, be it theatre or dance. The true goal was to create a safe space where people who might not know each other could gather and share laughter, tears, thoughts and experiences together. A place where artists and arts workers could share their talents with an audience that would breathe with them in the serious moments and laugh with them in the lighter moments.

And while the world has indeed been changed and will for some time continue to be impacted by this pandemic, when it is safe people will come out of their houses and they will want to share communal experiences. That is who we are as human beings – we like to be with and do things with others. So as we wait in anticipation of welcoming audiences back to the theatre, we are considering many ways to enrich audiences experiences at the theatre while also considering how we engage with the artists we work with and all of the different ways we can undertake live performances. And in the meantime, we will stay in touch until such time as we can meet again in the theatre.

Stay safe, laugh as much as you can, and remember you are not alone – we are all in this together.

– Donna

Firehall Suspends Operations

Artistic Producer, Donna Spencer announced today that the Firehall Arts Centre is suspending all productions and presentations until such time as it is deemed safe for the public to meet and enjoy live arts performances.

We are, of course, disappointed that we will not at this time be able to share productions like Trans Scripts, Part 1: The Women and Artistic Fraud’s amazing Between Breaths with you. Our upcoming production of White Noise is being postponed until Fall 2020 and we are hopeful that by mid-May we will be able to resume the balance of our programming for the 2020-2021 season.

Our box office staff will be in contact with all of the patrons who have purchased tickets for these three productions with further information regarding pre-purchased tickets.

As a not for profit charity, the Firehall is reliant on box office to cover a large portion of our annual operating budget and we are working to minimize as much as possible the impact of losses from box office revenues on the Society’s financial health. If you are able, the donation of your ticket back to the Firehall Arts Centre would be greatly appreciated and would help us immensely. All donations of $20.00 or more will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

We are also working to minimize as much as possible the impact these cancellations and postponements will have on the freelance performing artists and part-time customer services and technical staff, with whom we work as they too must have the means to support their living expenses.

Thank you from the Firehall for your support and stay healthy.
Firehall Arts Centre Staff

Steps We’re Taking to Keep Everyone Safe and Healthy

Dear Valued Friends of the Firehall,

The Firehall is committed to providing a healthy safe environment for our audiences, the artists we work with, our volunteers and our staff. We are closely watching COVID-19 developments and looking to the Public Health Agency of Canada, HealthLink BC and BC Centre for Disease Control for their guidance. Currently, all Firehall performances are proceeding on schedule as our venue only seats 134 individuals. We are implementing ways in which to ensure that our venue is sanitized and clean and that our audience and the artists we work with feel safe within the venue. As a live performance not-for-profit charity we are highly dependent on the ongoing support of patrons and donors such as yourself.

We have put in place the following measures to ensure that your health is protected and that your ticket purchase is secure.

  • We have capped attendance at 70% for all Firehall performances until further notice, allowing for greater space between patrons.
  • High-touch services such as handrails, door handles, pin pads and seat arm rests are being cleaned between performances.
  • We have increased the presence of hand sanitizers in our lobby and will ensure soap in the washrooms is regularly replenished.
  • Our staff and volunteers are following official advice and are staying home if they feel unwell.

How you can play your part:

  • If you are feeling ill, please stay at home. We will happily change your ticket to a future date or performance at no charge, give you an account credit or refund your purchase. Email or call the box office at 604-689-0926 Mon-Friday between 9:30-5pm.
  • Frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water or use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol if you’re unable to wash your hands.
  • If you need to cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with your arm or a tissue.

Our website and social media channels will be updated with information as required.

We value your support and hope to see you at upcoming performances at the Firehall.

For more information about your health and COVID-19, please visit the following websites:

Public Health Agency of Canada


BC Centre for Disease Control

Firehall’s Response to COVID-19

As a live performance theatre, the Firehall Arts Centre undertakes its productions and presentations for our audiences and we are very dependent on your support at our events.  We are, also, very aware of your concerns with regard to COVID-19 and its potential to be spread in public gatherings.  We are working to keep our venue as safe as possible through sanitizing our stair rails, counters, and other public areas. We encourage you, also, to protect yourself when attending a performance by using hand sanitizer, washing your hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds and covering your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing and sneezing. We want to thank you for your consideration of others and we appreciate your ongoing patronage greatly.

Please check out the interview below from CBC with Dr. Abdu Sharkawy.

Infectious diseases specialist warns of ‘overkill’ when cancelling events over coronavirus fears

Special Announcement: A Hanky Panky Party to Benefit the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and Firehall Arts Centre!

Cast of Talking Sex on Sunday by Emily Cooper

Want to experience a party like the one in Talking Sex on Sunday? After the show on Sunday, March 1st we’ll be having our own Hanky Panky party to benefit the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and Firehall Arts Centre in the studio! Hosted by Hanky Panky Adult Home Parties! There is a $5.00 registration fee in order to attend – everyone is welcome! The registration fee and a portion of the sales from the party will be split between the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and Firehall Arts Centre. Snacks will be provided and our bar will stay open for the party!

Book your Hanky Panky ticket now! Space is limited!

Up Next: The Shipment!

The Shipment

by Young Jean Lee

Photo: Ryan McDonald

Playing from September 24 – October 5 at the Firehall Arts Centre! Get your tickets HERE!

“A provocative comedy to shake the woke”

-The Georgia Straight

The Firehall Arts Centre is thrilled to launch its 37th anniversary season with SpeakEasy Theatre’s powerful and provocative comedy, The Shipment.

Written by Korean-American playwright Young Jean Lee, The Shipment is a subversive modern minstrel show about Black identity meant to wake the world to the ridiculous narratives in dominant media. Five Black actors – Andrew Creightney, Chris Francisque, Omari Newton, Adrian Neblett, and Kiomi Pyke – play a roster of characters that reads like a bad b-list of Black iconography: Video Ho, Crackhead John, Bad Cop, Standup Comedian, Drug Dealer Mama, Grandma from Heaven, and Record Company Executive, to name just a few. The brazen mash-up of these stereotypes with clichés, distortions, and brilliant sleights of hand all force us to go beyond the lampoon and shift the lens through which we perceive race in order to confront our own bias.

“Young Jean Lee is one of America’s most fearless and exciting playwrights,” says Firehall Arts Centre’s Artistic Producer, Donna Spencer. “In her writing, she is not afraid to tackle difficult subject matter and does so with humour and intelligence. When SpeakEasy Theatre first produced The Shipment, I was privileged to sit in a sold-out performance and watch the audience shift in their seats, uncomfortably, and then laugh out loud a few moments later. The work engaged them and made them consider. I am proud to share this playwright’s work and this talented company of artists with Firehall audiences.”

Garnering five Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards nominations and a Best Actor win for Omari Newton, The Shipment is biting satire at its very best.

“Bold, honest and hilarious.” – Vancouver Presents!

“…a surrealist collage.” – Colin Thomas


Credits for The Shipment

Written by:  Young Jean Lee

Performances by:  Andrew Creightney, Chris Francisque, Omari Newton, Adrian Neblett, and Kiomi Pyke

Directed by:  Kayvon Khoshkam and Omari Newton

Set & Costume Design by:  Markian Taraskiuk

Lighting Design by:  Itai Erdal

Produced by:  Markian Tarasiuk



Young Jean Lee has been called “hands down, the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation” by the New York Times, “one of New York’s smartest, thorniest, and most knockdown hilarious playwrights” by The Guardian, and “one of the best experimental playwrights in America” by Time Out New York. She has written and directed nine shows in New York with Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company and toured her work to over thirty cities around the world. Her plays have been published by TCG (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and Other Plays, The Shipment and Lear) and by Samuel French (Three Plays by Young Jean Lee). She is currently under commission from Plan B/Paramount Pictures, Lincoln Center Theater, Playwrights Horizons, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is a member of New Dramatists and 13P, and has an MFA from Mac Wellman’s playwriting program at Brooklyn College. She has received grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Creative Capital, NYFA, NEA, NYSCA, the Jerome Foundation, The Fox Samuels Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, and the Rockefeller MAP Foundation. She is also the recipient of two OBIE Awards, the Festival Prize of the Zürcher Theater Spektakel, a 2010 Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2012 Doris Duke Artist Award.


It’s with great urgency our present culture needs the live experience to help connect, question and remember why we are alive. SpeakEasy Theatre is committed to creating an environment where communities come together to celebrate. We are driven to foster stories created by diverse artists who are immediate, honest and unforgiving.

Check out some press and reviews from when The Shipment originally played at the Vancity Culture Lab: stereotypes

Colin Thomas Review

The Georgia Straight Review

Vancouver Presents Review

Vancouver Plays Review

Broken Leg Reviews

Photo: Ryan McDonald

2019-2020 Season Announcement

An enthusiastic crowd of Firehall Arts Centre supporters applauded the announcement of the Firehall ’s 2019-2020 season as the Centre wrapped up its 36th season on June 5th.

In making the announcement, Artistic Producer Donna Spencer said,   “We have put together a season jam-packed with performances by diverse talented artists;  plays and dance works that will stimulate discussion, tears and laughter and is built through strong partnerships with many of B.C. ‘s professional arts organizations.  It features the premiere of two new plays; the premiere of one musical and the Vancouver premiere of another; two exciting contemporary dance works; two venue assisted partnerships;  an aural history of our neighborhood; two theatre presentations; the Flying Start program;  B.C. Buds and Solstice Greetings.  The season is rich with entertaining and thought-provoking works.”

Early bird season passes are on sale now with select shows on sale, July 1, 2019.

Firehall’s 2019-2020 Season

The Shipment  by Young Jean Lee.  September 24 – October 5, 2019  SpeakEasy Theatre’s critically acclaimed production is back! Billed as “A provocative comedy to shake the woke”, The Shipment is a subversive modern minstrel show about Black identity meant to wake the world to the ridiculous narratives in dominant media. Vancouver Presents called it “Bold, honest and hilarious” and Colin Thomas said it’s “a surrealist collage.”

Spooky Action   October 16-19, 2019   Inverso Productions’ Lesley Telford creates this interdisciplinary dance project inspired by particle entanglement.  A study of  human connections, inspired by Einstein’s famous phrase referring to particles that are so closely linked, they share the same existence,  Spooky Action brings together thought-provoking dance, cutting edge scenography, original composition and engaging narrative.  A Firehall Arts Centre presentation

Opening Doors: The Women    November 6-9, 2019 This work-in-progress dramatization draws on Daphne Marlatt & Carole Itter’s 1979 aural history, “Opening Doors: Vancouver’s East End” and takes a look at the stories and history of the neighbourhood surrounding the Firehall.  Women from many different cultural heritages and backgrounds help build this vibrant community and their stories often go untold.  This production may require movement throughout the Firehall.   

FADO – The Saddest Music in the World  November 21-Dec 14, 2019   Written by Elaine Avila, FADO is a tale of love and ghosts told through the saddest music in the world, Portuguese FADO. When Luisa goes to Portugal she discovers her mother’s favorite fado is fascist and when she meets her long lost cousin and discovers he is a fadista and a Drag Queen, she is inspired to sing fados of resistance. Directed by Mercedes Batiz-Benet.   A Firehall Arts Centre and Puente Theatre production.

Solstice Greetings  December 19, 20, 21 2019
Returning for a second season, the sharing of songs, stories and seasonal greetings to celebrate the return of the light.

House and Home  January 11-25, 2020    Jennifer Griffin’s  biting, comic take on Vancouver’s  current real estate crisis. Hilary, a waitress/poet turned social worker, and Henry, a Butoh dancer turned lawyer, didn’t know how lucky they were when they managed to escape bad roommates and buy a house before the real estate market skyrocketed. Finding themselves house rich and cash poor they abandon their values and plunge into the world of short-term rentals.   How far can they go to keep their house? Directed by Donna Spencer   A Firehall Arts Centre premiere production

Talking Sex on Sundays  February 14 – March 8, 2020  On the first Sunday of every month Margot and her friends always host a theme party. What happens when Margot decides to kick it up a notch by having a Sex Toy Party? In this New Musical by Sara-Jeanne Hosie and Nico Rhodes, we witness as these women share fears, reveal dirty secrets, explore new possibilities, and find the power of female friendship. Directed by Donna Spencer  A Firehall Arts Centre premiere production.

Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women   March 13-22, 2020    Zee Zee and the Frank Theatre unite to bring this powerful verbatim piece compiled from over 70 interviews with trans women from around the world to the stage. The play follows 7 characters through a series of monologues using the hero’s journey as the structure for the piece.
A Zee Zee and Frank Theatre production presented in association with the Firehall Arts Centre

Between Breaths by Robert Chafe | March 31 – April 5, 2020
Well known in Newfoundland as the Whale Man, Dr. Jon Lien during the course of his work pioneered techniques for rescuing whales entrapped in fishing nets saving the lives of over 500 animals. Between Breaths jumps time backwards, from the final moments of Lien’s life – in a wheelchair to his very first whale intervention.
An Artistic Fraud production presented by the Firehall Arts Centre

BC Buds   April 9-11, 2020 Join us for new play readings and new choreographies that are in development.

White Noise   April   18 – May 9, 2020    Written by Taran Kootenhayoo .   A comedy about two families who have dinner together for the first time during Truth and Reconciliation week, White Noise explores what it means to live in Canada from two different paradigms. How do we deal with internalized racism? Do we keep pushing it away and pretend to live safely in our day-to-day?  Directed by Renae Morriseau. A Firehall Arts Centre and Savage Society premiere production.

Eunoia    May 13-16, 2020      Denise Fujiwara’s adaptation of Christian Bok’s award-winning book Eunoia is a multi-media experience of dance, video, music and costume that employs similar constraints as to those in the book through inventive movement and ground-breaking performances.   Dance critic Paula Citroen called it “One of the best dance events of the season – clever, witty, enigmatic.   A Firehall Arts Centre presentation of Fujiwara Dance Inventions.

Lights May 29 – June 7, 2020   by Adam Grant Warren   Roy Surette directs this powerful new play about a disabled son visiting his mother who has Alzheimer’s and lives across the country in St John’s.  A Flying Start Touchstone Theatre Production presented in partnership with the Firehall Arts Centre.

Actually  June 17-27, 2020   by Anna Ziegler.  Two college students spend a night together that alters the course of their lives. They agree on the drinking, they agree on the attraction, but consent is foggy, and if unspoken, can it be called consent? With lyricism and wit, ACTUALLY investigates gender and race politics, our crippling desire to fit in, and the three sides to every story. Directed by Michael Scholar Jr.   A  Mitch and Murray Productions presented in association with the Firehall Arts Centre.

Early bird packages available until July 31st at 604-689-0926 or HERE.

Early Bird Full 4 Pack – $79.00 (Regular $109.00)
Early Bird Flex 4 Pack – $100 (Regular $125.00)


Donna Spencer shares some thoughts on Re-Visioning An Enemy of the People in the Firehall’s new production of THE ENEMY.

Question:  Why did you choose to adapt Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People? 

There were many themes within Ibsen’s 1882 play  I felt were important and worthy of exploring in 2018 and in the review of many translations as well as Arthur Miller’s 1950 adaptation, I chose those that I felt would resonate in today’s world.  I did not choose to explore the male Dr. Stockman’s sexism, egotism and arrogance within the script as I felt that those truths have and are being recognized on a daily basis and exhibited by those in politics and in populist media.  Sexism, arrogance and egotism is out there in all aspects of society and frankly, I felt in writing the work that it is old and somewhat tired news that just keeps on and on so why focus on that.  What did intrigue me about the work was the discussion of individual voice, power, majority rights and water contamination.  And, I wanted to look at those elements through the lens of a female Dr. Stockman.

Question:    Why do you call the play The Enemy?

I felt it was important not to call the play An Enemy of the People because I did not want audiences to think they were coming to Ibsen’s play.   I wanted them to understand that I had drawn on Ibsen’s original work as a catalyst to create a new work that would stimulate discussion about the themes of the work.

Question:   Why a female Dr. Stockman?   Why not?

At the time the play was written, women did not have the vote and were considered to be chattels of their husbands and the doors were pretty much closed to women who might have wanted to become doctors. Today, thankfully, we have moved forward and women have moved into the fields of medicine and science.  In the case of the practice of family medicine in smaller communities, a large majority of those in practice are indeed female.  Further, I wanted to explore how a female doctor’s credibility would be put in question, when she did bring forward scientific findings.  And as, many female activists and political leaders have found,   when they speak passionately, or show emotion, they are often called to question.  In The Enemy, Dr. Stockman is reminded to stay calm, referred to as being crazy and high-strung as she argues for the truth of her scientific findings to be taken seriously.

In addition, we have wonderful strong female actors in Vancouver and they do not get the opportunity that often to play really meaty roles.  So I wanted to increase opportunities for female artists while making sure that we do not continue the assumption that all decision makers in small communities would be men.  Four members of the cast of nine are women and in future productions there are certainly other roles that could be played by men.

Question:   You drew on the original names of the characters in Ibsen’s play – did you ever consider changing them?

Yes, I did, indeed consider that and have changed the names slightly.  This work was stimulated by Mr. Ibsen’s original play, and I felt that it was important to honour the characters he created in some manner so we have Mayor Stockman not Mayor Stockmann;   Martin Kell instead of Morten Keil, etc. etc.

The Enemy plays November 10 – December 1. Visit our online box office or call us at 604-689-0926 for tickets today!

2018-2019 Season Announcement

The Firehall is thrilled to announce our coming season!

Save big by purchasing a  Pass! 

Bringing forward themes of multiculturalism and environmental issues, we open our stage to new and exciting productions such as Action at a Distance’s Never Still and THE ENEMY – a contemporary adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.

Watch for the return of the critically acclaimed musical CIRCLE GAMEReimagining the music of Joni Mitchell and the always popular BC Buds Festival.

Not to be missed are Alley Theatre/Firehall Arts Centre production of The Good Bride; from Montreal, The Tashme Project; Fringe Festival hit Arosh Irani’s Bombay Black; Ruby Slippers production of Marine Life, The Biting School’s Cain and Abel and Touchstone Theatre’s production of Kill Me Now.

Coming to our stage is also Solstice Greetings, an evening of seasonal stories and songs from many cultures and many experiences celebrating the return of the light. Closing the season, we have Gold Mountain – Turtle Island, a Firehall production telling the love story set in the early fifties between a young First Nation’s woman and a Chinese cafe worker set on the North Coast and in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Check below for all the dates!

Passes are already available through our website and through the phone at 604.689.0926


September 26-29th

Action at a Distance/Vanessa Goodman

A Firehall Arts Centre presentation

Inspired by the inherent conflicts and dichotomies of water, this graceful and highly physical new dance work explores social, environmental and biological themes.


October 3-6th

The Biting School/ Aryo & Arash Khakpour

A Firehall Arts Centre presentation

Two artistic brothers explore the themes and conflicts within this legendary story. Brotherly love or?


October 13-27th

Written by Brad Fraser

A Touchstone Theatre Production

Jake is a single dad and cares for his teen son, Joey, who has a severe disability. When Jake develops a serious medical condition he becomes the one to rely on the people around him. Touchstone Artistic Director, Roy Surette directs this frank, fearless and ferociously funny play.


November 10-Dec 1st

Adapted by Donna Spencer

A Firehall Arts Centre Production

In this contemporary interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, a female Dr. Stockman discovers contamination in the community’s water source and is branded an enemy and accused of destroying the local economy. Economic benefits vs. Community health and well-being. Who is the enemy?


Dec 5-15th

By Anosh Irani

A Firehall Arts Centre presentation

Directed and Produced by Rohit Chokhani

The lives of an Indian exotic dancer and her embittered mother are altered when a blind stranger visits them. Poetic, mythic, funny and brave this searing play is set in the bitter reality of India and wowed audiences at the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival winning a Pick of the Fringe Award.


Dec 20-22nd

A Firehall Arts Centre production

An evening of seasonal stories and songs from many cultures and many experiences celebrating the return of the light.

CIRCLE GAME: Reimagining the Music of Joni Mitchell

January 12-Feb 9th

Co-directed and co-created by Andrew Cohen and Anna Kuman

This powerful interpretation of Joni Mitchell music returns to the Firehall stage. “The freshness and artistry of Circle Game completely won me over” Jerry Wasserman, Vancouver Sun.


February 27-March 9th

Written by Rosemary Rowe

An Alley Theatre/Firehall Arts Centre production

Directed by Donna Spencer

Starring: Marisa Emma Smith

Every day from 3pm to midnight, 15 year old Maranatha puts on her wedding dress and hopes that today her 28 year old groom will come to claim her. Winner of Edmonton Sterling Award for “Outstanding New Play”, The Good Bride, is a provocative, funny and strangely unnerving nuanced exploration of faith in the context of religious fundamentalism.


March 15-23rd

Written by Rosa Laborde

A Ruby Slippers Theatre production in association with The Firehall Arts Centre

Directed by Ruby Slippers’ Artistic Director Diane Brown, this play tells the story of an environmental activist who falls in love with her opposite while her co-dependent brother spirals into chaotic self-destruction. Incorporating magic realism, live music and crackling wit, Marine Life is a dark romantic comedy that cleverly links our lack of skills around human intimacy with our inability to care for our plane

THE TASHME PROJECT: The Living Archive

April 3-13th

A verbatim theatre project created by Julie Tamiko Manning and Matt Miwa

Created from interviews with thirty Nisei or second generation Japanese Canadians this play traces the history of the Nisei through childhood, internment and post-WWII resettlement east of the Rockies. Memories of adventure and play are presented in sharp relief to the common internment narratives of hardship and injustice.

BC Buds – Firehall’s Spring Arts Fair

April 24-27th

Back by popular demand BC Buds will showcase new play readings, choreographies and more from emerging and established theatre and dance artists.


May 1-4th

A Firehall workshop production

A musical love story set in the early fifties between a young First Nation’s woman and a Chinese cafe worker set on the North Coast and in Vancouver’s Chinatown.


Get a pass here!